Nathan Rothstein, interviewed on July 22, 2007, was born in Boston in 1984. When Nathan was one a half, his family moved to the Sde-Boker kibbutz in Israel for a year while his father researched Arab Jews and their migration to Israel. The family then settled back in the Boston area. Judaism was a strong component in Nathan’s childhood. He attended the Rashi School and later attended Hebrew school and was Bar Mitzvah-ed at Temple Emunah in Lexington, MA. From an early age his parents taught him to connect Judaism and social justice. He remembered volunteering at homeless shelters and food banks as a young boy.
He graduated with an honors degree in History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2006. During college, he spent time organizing Alternative Spring Break Programs to New York City and Atlanta, volunteering for different political campaigns, and teaching in the Cambridge, MA summer schools. During his senior year, he spent his spring break doing disaster relief work in Gulfport, MS, which first exposed him to the devastation of the Gulf Coast. Inspired by the determination of people in the area to rebuild their homes, Nathan decided to become an Americorps volunteer and came to live in New Orleans and join the rebuilding effort. He spent the following 10 months serving for a non-profit relief organization in New Orleans' statistically poorest neighborhood, Tulane/Gravier, gutting homes, landscaping public areas, raising money for homeowners and recruiting volunteers. During his term, he facilitated discussions and workshops with many university service programs who had come to volunteer in the city. The sessions explored the challenges facing the city and how the volunteers could help in various ways. While attending many Unified New Orleans Plan meetings, and speaking to dozens of residents, he witnessed a community that was eager for social change, but needed a way to mobilize people to work together. To support the renewal of New Orleans, he is dedicated to helping young professionals find ways to connect with each other and find the resources they need to stay in the city. He helped found The NOLA YURP Initiative, which focuses on connecting, retaining and attracting the city's young workforce.
This oral history was conducted by Rosalind Hinton for a joint project by the Jewish Women's Archive partnered with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) to capture the voices and experiences of members of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast communities during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. For more information, see katrina.jwa.org/about#about-oral-history.